Japan rocked by sumo scandal
Grand champ faces bottle assault allegations
Tokyo: The highly ceremonial and ordered world of sumo was rocked as allegations emerged that one of the sport’s worshipped grand champions smashed a beer bottle over a fellow wrestler’s head.
Mongolian y okozuna, or grand champion, Harumafuji issued an apology yesterday before the Japanese media, as officials said they were probing the incident that has led to his absence from an ongoing tournament.
The 33-year-old Harumafuji hit his countryman Takanoiwa, 27, last month when Mongolian wrestlers gathered over drinks after the autumn tournament, several media reported.
“I deeply apologise over Takanoiwa’s injury,” Harumafuji – one of three reigning Mongolian y okozuna – told reporters at his training site in the western Japanese city of Dazaifu.
But he deflected further questions to the “stable master” who runs the camp.
The ancient sport has an extremely strict protocol, and y okozuna are expected to be beyond moral reproach in addition to showing superior strength and technique in the ring. Wrestlers are not even allowed to express emotions when they win as this is seen as inconsiderate to the loser.
Tomokatsu Taniguchi, head of legal affairs for the sumo association, said that Takanoiwa’s stable master had submitted a doctor’s certificate regarding a head injury that would require two weeks to heal.
A link between the injury and the allegation is not confirmed, added Taniguchi, as officials are still inves- tigating the matter.
Harumafuji is viewed as having a skilful technique that allows him to offset a relatively small body weight – at a mere 137kg, he is one of the lightest in the sport’s top division.
He emerged victorious at the most recent tournament in September in Tokyo, edging out Japan’s Goeido in a thrilling last day bout.
“Harumafuji will be absent from the third day” of the current tournament in Fukuoka, western Japan, the sumo association tweeted without giving a reason.
Tales of extreme physical abuse are becoming more common in sumo – Japan’s national sport – which is characterised by harsh training and strict hierarchy. It has also been hit in recent years by bout-fixing rumours and illegal gambling.
In hot water: Harumafuji speaking to journalists after morning training for the ongoing Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in Dazaifu, southwestern Japan.